Holder Transitioning Well

STATEN ISLAND, NY - Right-hander Jonathan Holder is in the midst of his first professional season with the Staten Island Yankees. Not only is the former Mississippi State University reliever still getting acclimated to professional ball, but has also made the transition to a starter and has pitched well so far.

Holder was strictly a relief pitcher in college and did not start one single game in his three years there. However, he has made six official starts for the Staten Island Yankees this season and the plan is to continue developing him in that role.

With a strong fastball and curveball, Holder is working on developing his changeup to excel in his new role. Learning this third pitch was the biggest transition he faced when becoming a starter and will be imperative for his success going forward.

"I think as long as he continues to develop his third pitch, he's going to be successful," manager Mario Garza said. Previously he was majority fastball and curveball. Now he's working on his changeup to go along with his other two pitches.

"I really enjoy watching him," pitching coach Tim Norton added. "The kid has done well for us; good fastball command, can really spin it, starting to get a feel for that changeup so everything is starting to work out for him.

"The transition has been pretty easy really. I think he goes about it the same way; same focus, same mentality. I think he just goes in there no matter what inning, what game and just attacks it the same way. I don't see it being a big difference for him in particular. Some guys you might see some difference but not with him."

The young pitcher has seemed to adjust fairly easily to baseball at the professional level but admits to having to adjust to his role as a starter.

"I'm used to being a closer and now I'm a starter so the routine's a little bit different," Holder admitted. "It was kind of tough at first, throwing more innings, less times a week but now I've gotten into a routine and now it's kind of flowing a little bit."

Sitting around 88-92 mph with his fastball, Holder's velocity seems to be okay at the moment. Both Garza and Norton are satisfied with his performance so far.

"He's a gamer, he's a tough kid," Garza said. "His stuff plays up meaning he's a 88-91. But it plays up due to his secondary pitches. When he's commanding his fastball he's really good."

"His focus, his mentality and his competitiveness," Norton listed as his favorite Holder attributes. "He's got a good fastball, he could really spin it like I mentioned. But just him just being locked into each pitch, that's what really sticks out to me.

"He has gotten a lot better with that changeup so you're looking at two good pitches and then one that's developing into a pretty good pitch for him so he has a nice three-pitch mix."

Holder left MSU after being drafted but still holds the title as one of the most accomplished closers in NCAA history. He was All American in 2013 and became one of the few players to ever record over 21 saves in a single season. He was a member of the 2014 NCAA Lafayette Regional All-Tournament Team and led his team with seven saves that same year.

After such an impressive collegiate season, Holder admits to being a little tired, especially with transitioning into the starting role. His velocity is not quite were he wants it but it still in the lower nineties.

"I'm pretty tired after going through a long college season and pitching a lot this year then coming here. I'm throwing more per outing, so my velocity is down a little bit," Holder admitted. But it's pretty maintained throughout each outing."

After a couple months of professional baseball under his belt, Holder is in good shape and has learned a lot.

"I've gotten in better shape. When you're a reliever you kind of don't run as much distance and stuff but now as a starter in pro ball you run a lot more and you get in better shape," Holder added. "My changeup is the best improvement. I never really threw one in college and now I'm throwing it more and it's kind of making the hitters a little more unbalanced."

"I think he's learned to let his stuff play," Garza added. "Early on I think he tried to really rely on his breaking ball which is a very good pitch but the more hitters see it the more they're going to be able to read it.

"I think he's done a really nice job of learning to pitch up his fastball and he is also using his third pitch."

Moving forward, Holder must remain consistent and continue to develop his changeup to excel in the starting role. Considering his bullpen background though, he is already shown a proclivity for being a consistent starter someday.

"He's a grinder, he's a gamer. He does an excellent job of controlling the running game and he's very experienced. I don't want to use the word bulldog because he's from the Mississippi State but that's the term that comes to mind," Garza concluded.

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